In the relatively near future, Earth's
population skyrockets, soaring up to nearly 10 ½ billion. Any dreams
of interplanetary colonisation are dashed when it is proved that neither
Mars nor the more promising of Jupiter and Saturn's moons have the necessary
resources to support Human habitation. However, a global network of satellites
and orbiting space stations is established, opening huge broadband communication
nets and allowing the transfer of huge amounts of information right around
the globe. In space, a number of companies are staking out claims on asteroids
in the search for heavy metals, such as nickel, which are becoming scarce
on earth. These companies are assisted by generous government subsidies,
provided by both the EU, AFS (African Federation of Sates) and the PPTO
(Pan-Pacific Treaty Organisation), a union of the most powerful economic
states (and some not so powerful) bordering the pacific ocean. Back on
earth, the Aids virus has been conquered, along with cancer, but chronic
overpopulation is taking its toll on the earth. Many countries now house
huge super metropolises, a melange of High rise apartment buildings and
slums, which spread out across the nearby landscape. In Australia, made
economically powerful by its ownership of the last coal and oil fields
in the world (located in Antarctica), an ultra conservative government,
reflecting the ideas of thrift and conservation present in this world of
little resources, holds sway. Under pressure from its 136 million inhabitants,
and realising the political advantage inherent in it, they introduce a
clean up Australia campaign, with the express purpose of rehabilitating
the growing wayward youths on the streets or in the nations dangerously
overcrowded prison system. At least quarter a million young people, maybe
more, are rounded up and dispatched to the 'Shrapner Institute' the most
advanced institution in the Asia-Pacific area involved in the science of
Neural-Alteration, quite literally a form of brainwashing. As this is an
infant science, mortality rates among the patients are extremely high,
and those who survive often go mad, loosing all vestiges of sentience and
reverting to a primitive state. Those few who are successfully 'rehabilitated'
are paraded to the public, showing off their perfect manners and thanking
the Shrapner Institution for 'saving' them. The public didn't seem to care
about the discrepancy between the amount of kids going in, and the number
coming out. As one politician succinctly put it "As long as the little
shits were off the street, no could care what happened to them."
The government, of course, was entirely
satisfied with this arrangement, for along with the kudos the received
for rehabilitating wayward young people they obtained test subjects for
both military and medical research. Another profitable sideline was the
research into human-machine symbioses, essentially constructing machines
that interfaced directly with the brain, which the government hoped to
put to a military purpose, and the investigation into ESP and telekinesis.
A young girl of fifteen years, who
goes by the name of Chloe Taylor, is committed to the Shrapner institute
for the relatively major crime of ‘technological fraud’, in the simplest
of terms, hacking ATM machines. Train transfers her to the Shrapner Institutes
Depot, before being ferried by lorry to a holding cell. She befriends few
people, but sees scenes of horrible brutality around her; guards attacking
the young inmates; children refused medical aid; the detainees packed into
tiny cells. Then the inmates in her section start disappearing, and as
the wardens drag them out many are told that they will now be ‘cured’.
Rumours start spreading about the rehabilitation process going horribly
wrong, causing the subjects to go catatonic, or even worse, remain alive
and mobile, but with no consciousness present. A minor riot ensues, and
she witnesses a number of inmates being shot or being led away to an impromptu
reconditioning. Finally her time comes; during the middle of the night
guards drag her away from her cell, taking her to some sort of medical
ward, where she is stripped bare and subjected to a number of pathological
tests, to ascertain her blood type, heart rate and other bodily functions.
Finally she is garbed in a pair of blue hospital pyjamas, before being
led to an operating theatre where she is put under an anaesthetic….
…When she comes to she is bound to
some type of chair, in a large circular room that has an observation tower
in its centre. Her head is bandaged, and the back of her skull throbs fiercely.
She feels a metalic presence at the base of her neck and, craning her head
she sees a bundle of wires trailing out behind her. A dozen or so inmates,
each in the same condition as her, occupy other parts if the room.
Then the order is given to start
the Reconditioning, and as the pain in the back of her skull increases,
she screams. Suddenly alarms begin to sound. Scientists who were simply
observing begin to clutch at their heads in agony. Through the cacophony
of sirens she hears a voice shout out, "We’re getting Retributive Feedback",
before the head of every person present explodes. Understandably, Chloe
When she awakes she has been released,
the bonds that held her open automatically, and she stumbles out of the
chair. Absentmindedly her hand flicks to the back of her head and pulls
free a tangle of wire. Her probing fingers confirm her suspicions; three
plugs have been sunk into the base of her neck. She shudders as she takes
stock of her surroundings. The bodies of the inmates, and the scientists
(minus their heads) lie slumped against walls or on the floor. Pools of
blood, already congealing, cover the shiny stainless steel floor. She takes
a step forward and hears something crunch against her foot. It’s a tooth.
Images flash across her mind, the bruised and broken body of an inmate
beaten to death by wardens, the slumping body of a young child, the victim
of a failed reconditioning, being drawn past on a mortuary trolley. She’s
inexplicably angry, imbued with a sense of purpose.
She has a Neural-Circuit interface,
the ability to upload knowledge from computers almost instantly. She’s
a hacker and has a quick mind. She can run, dodge, strafe and has a burning
desire to learn to use a gun.
She is Chloe Taylor, once an innocent
street hacker, now the key to the Shrapner Institute’s destruction, and
she will have revenge.